The chances are that if you’re at all tech savvy, you’ve probably heard someone refer to ‘the internet of things’ in the last couple of years.
Despite that, the IoT is still very much in its infancy, and many people don’t have a clue what the term actually refers to. Here, we’re going to take a look at everything you need to know about a technology that IS going to affect your life in the future.
(If it’s not affecting it already!)
The IoT is the term used for the connection of everyday objects to the internet, and in turn to one another.
Presumably you’ve heard the word ‘smart’ tethered to an item or two in your life: a smart car, or a smart TV, for instance. The IoT is what fuels that ‘smart’ capability.
More and more everyday objects now make use of the IoT, and some products are being released that base their whole USP around it: Nest Protect smoke detectors, for instance, or August door locks.
These everyday objects are given wireless connectivity, which allows them to be tethered to other devices, such as our mobiles.
OK, so it’s just for household stuff, then?
Not necessarily. IoT technology can be applied to almost anything, and has already been tested on:
- Light bulbs
- Coffee makers
- Transportation systems
- Washing machines
And a number of others. It’s true that you’re likely to see a lot of connected devices around the house, but the IoT is also impacting on the world of business.
The technical terms
As with any new form of technology, a number of key terms have already begun to spring up around the IoT. With that in mind, we’ve put together this quick glossary. You might not have heard them already, but make no mistake, you’re going to hear them in future!
- Internet of Things. As mentioned, this is the network of everyday objects capable of connecting to the web in order to collect and exchange data.
- Internet of Things device. Any stand-alone item that can be connected to the network.
- Internet of Things ecosystem. This is the umbrella term for ALL the components and features that allow businesses and consumers to make use of IoT technology, including networks, security, data storage, remotes and so forth.
- Physical layer. This is the hardware that allows the object to use the IoT network, and will include sensors and networking gear.
- Network layer. This is responsible for transmitting the data collected by the physical layer to the other devices on the network.
- Application layer. This contains the necessary protocols and interfaces that allow the devices to identify and communicate with each other.
- This allows the user to control their IoT devices through relevant apps. Remotes can compromise of almost any kind of handheld device, including tablets, laptops, smartphones, smart watches, TVs and even ‘traditional’ handheld remotes.
- The dashboard displays relevant information related to the IoT, and will usually be housed on the user’s chosen remote.
- This is software that will allow users to analyze data taken from the IoT, and use it to improve performance.
- Data storage. As the name indicates, this is where the data from the device is stored.
- Again, this is simply the internet communication layer that allows the devices and remotes to communicate with each other.
Predictions for the internet of things?
Will the IoT really catch on? Or will it just go the way of 3DTVs?
Well, the current statistics by those in the know are quite staggering. At one point, some people believed that there would be 50 billion connected devices in the world by 2020.
(And that wasn’t just a throwaway guess, either: it came from Ericsson’s former CEO Hans Vestburg.)
And, crazily, it wasn’t even the highest number predicted at the time. In 2012, IBM forecast that a trillion devices would be connected by 2015. A prediction that, obviously, wasn’t quite on the money.
Today, the predictions are slightly lower, with most current 2020 predictions hovering at around 30 billion. Which, we’re sure you’ll agree, is still a lot of devices.
OK, that’s great, but where are we right now?
Not at 30 billion, that’s for sure, but the numbers are still impressive. The current count for devices is believed to be somewhere between 6.4 billion (which was Gartner’s estimate in late 2016) and the International Data Corporation’s estimate of around 9 billion.
(It’s worth noting that neither figure includes smartphones, tablets or computers, which shows you how everyday this technology has become! IHS made an estimate of 17.6 billion once those devices were included.
Many people believe that the biggest beneficiaries of the IoT will be businesses. If you run a company, there are a host of ways you could take advantage of the data. The IoT could allow you to:
- Improve efficiency. Error data can help you improve products and reduce maintenance and minimize returns. Feature use data will tell you which parts of your product are useless or need re-thinking. The more information you have access to, the better you can use it to improve the way your company works.
- Enhance your security. You’ll be able to fix problems faster by making use of the real-time information, and then use that info to guard against threats in future. This applies to both data-related crime and to physical threats: the IoT is directly applicable to video cameras, sensors and other security equipment.
- Faster decision making. You’ll get constant, immediate data on how your products are being used by customers. This’ll allow you to make faster decisions on your products and your strategies. You’ll see trends earlier, and be able to react accordingly to meet needs and stop problems before they start.
- Cost benefits. By becoming more efficient, your business will save money. Time is, after all, money! By improving your process you’ll make more sales, and your time-to-market will decrease for your products.
- Improved customer service. The more efficient your company’s processes are, the happier your customers will be! They’ll get a faster, better service.
Ok, that’s all great, but how about an example?
So, take a vending machine business. Under the old system, this company would have to send out a vendor to check stock.
Using the IoT, vending machines will be able to send an automatic, immediate signal to the vendors when a particular product runs out. As a result, the vendors can restock the machine quickly.
Because of this, the company sells more of what is – given it’s sold out! – probably quite a popular product.
Some hypothetical maths:
Let’s say that the company sells 20 cans of orange soda a day at $1 a can.
Let’s also say that IoT link allows the machine to get re-stocked with soda in one day, rather than five, and let’s say this happens once every month.
That’s an extra four days a month of sales. 20 dollars of soda a day, so the company makes an additional 80 bucks in four days.
Doesn’t sound like a lot, does it? Well, keep reading:
Let’s say there’s ten types of soda in the machine selling the same amount. This would mean 800 dollars of extra sales, if the machine was empty for one day rather than five.
And now let’s say the company has 5,000 machines installed across a state of your choosing.
That’s an extra $4,000,000 per month.
And now let’s say they’ve got 5,000 machines in all fifty states.
The total increase in sales across the U.S is $20,000,000,000!!
Not such a small figure now, right?
All because of a little IoT technology.
(Oh, and the maths here is definitely hypothetical, but the idea isn’t: Coca Cola are looking at introducing this technology to their machines as we speak.)
Of course, the IoT isn’t going to apply to businesses in exactly the same way every time. Every company will make use of it in a different way, but the principle is the same: use the data to streamline your process and to improve the product you provide.
If you use the technology effectively, you have a huge opportunity to get way ahead of the competition. But you’ll need to act fast. A survey from AVG found that 57% of small businesses believed the IoT could affect their bottom line.
Which industries will be most affected by the IoT?
As you’ve probably gathered by now, almost ANY business could make use of the available technology to improve what they do.
However, if you’re interested in viewing a list, Business Insider’s view – one we agree with – is that the following industries will all notice the emergence of the technology over the next few years.
- Food services
- Smart buildings (yes, this is happening!)
- Oil, gas and mining
In short, a lot of people!
Very good question! There are a number of companies already making use of IoT to improve their operations in 2017.
Here are a few examples:
- Belkin’s WeMo Switch Smart Plug. The remote controlled plug that can be turned on or off right from your smartphone. There’s also another plug – the Insight switch – which allows you to monitor your energy use, making your home more energy efficient as a result.
- August Smart Lock. Relying entirely on IoT tech to lock and unlock, the August system allows you to set door entry codes for friends (or for you) and even to monitor exits and entrances from your phone. It’s a completely keyless system.
- Samsung SmartThings Hub. Probably the most all-encompassing home entertainment system available today, the SmartThings hub allows you to control a number of household items from your phone.
- Petnet Smart Pet Feeder. Love pets? You might have heard of this one. Petnet’s feeder allows you to calculate which food is best for your dog or cat, AND how much they should be eating. It then delivers the food on schedule, even if you’re not in the house.
- Scanomat Topbrewer. Given the world’s obsession with coffee, it’s no surprise that someone came along and linked everyone’s favorite wake-up call to the IoT. The Topbrewer can be built into any kitchen and controlled from your smartphone. Press ‘Start Now’, and the tap will produce any coffee you want. Lattes, mochas, Americanos, espressos and even hot chocolate or juice.
- The Healthpatch is the medical world’s first step into the IoT. It can be used by healthcare providers to detect a number of things, including skin temperature, body posture, ECG, heart rate, respiratory rate and even if you’ve had a fall. As a result, doctors are able to detect potential medical problems before they get to the critical stage.
Taking advantage of the Internet of Things could make a huge difference to your business. If you’d like to find out more, give Iconic Solutions a call today.
We’re specialists in using this technology to get outstanding results for our clients.